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Gospel Festival To Return, Possibly As Neighborhood Event

Gospel Festival

Chicago Gospel Festival (File Photo; Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Gospel Festival will return as a standalone event next year, but it won’t be in Grant or Millennium Park.

This year, the renowned music festival was folded into the Taste of Chicago, along with the Viva! Chicago Latin Music Festival, the Country Music Festival and Celtic Fest Chicago. All the festivals were reduced to one-day events within the Taste.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to make sure all communities have access to high-quality cultural programming, and thus, the festival might be anchored in one neighborhood with related events all around town.

The new Gospel Festival will run for two or three days, the newspaper reported.

Cultural Affairs and Special Events Commissioner Mary Boone pointed out to the Sun-Times that the origins of gospel music lie in Bronzeville, particularly at the Pilgrim Baptist Church on South Indiana Avenue, which is now being rebuilt following a devastating 2006 fire.

But gospel music also has historic routes on the North and West sides, Boone told the Sun-Times.

Plans are also afoot to cut back the length of the Taste of Chicago, which is returning to city control after an unsuccessful year under the Chicago Park District, the Sun-Times reported. But the Taste might welcome more neighborhood restaurants, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The city will keep the Jazz and Blues festivals at Grant Park, where they are based at the Petrillo Band Shell and an assortment of temporary stages. But they might include additional programming in city neighborhoods, the Tribune reported.

Until last year, the Gospel Festival was held every year in the first week of June, for many years at Petrillo, and at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in more recent years.

Gospel Music traces its roots to Chicago. The phrase was coined by Dorsey in 1926 when he wrote the songs “Someday, Somewhere,” and “If You See My Savior.” While the church community initially dismissed Dorsey’s music as “burlesque,” the style caught on after Dorsey sang at a local National Baptist Convention in 1930.

Smaller gospel festivals are held at many locations throughout the city during the summer, including the Southside Neighborhood Gospel Festival in Englewood, and the “I Have a Vision” Community and Gospel Fest in Woodlawn. This year, for the first time, a gospel festival was also held in Washington Park as part of the Bud Billiken Parade.